SALT LAKE CITY — The wait continues for a portion of Utah's uninsured, as federal officials mull over a handful of amendments to potential expansion of health benefits.
The Utah Department of Health has proposed that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approve new enrollment and eligibility limits, a work requirement, no presumptive eligibility and an option for the state to change eligibility through administrative rule rather than file other waivers in the future.
The expanded list of requests joins those submitted with the original waiver in August 2016.
A resolution is expected by the end of October, said Nate Checketts, Utah Medicaid director. Benefits could possibly start Nov. 1.
Checketts told Utah's Federal Funds Commission on Wednesday that when HB437 — which approves expansion of Medicaid to a targeted adult population — passed the state Legislature last year, "we were dealing with the Obama administration." The outcome may be different with a new administration, he said.
Officials working under President Donald Trump have reflected a desire to allow states more flexibility in applying Medicaid rules.
Because of potential leniency, Checketts said the department reassessed needs throughout the program and submitted amendments to the state's pending waiver wherever necessary.
"There were things we knew Obama's administration wouldn't approve," he said.
Legislative leaders have sought to create a program unique to Utah's needs, addressing those who fall within the coverage gap (making too little to afford insurance and too much to qualify for government-subsidized benefits), but in different ways. After many failed attempts, the state's House and Senate settled on a gradual approach, beginning with people believed to have the greatest needs.
Those in Utah's targeted adult expansion group include about 5,000 to 7,000 of the chronically homeless, people involved in the justice system who need treatment for substance abuse or mental illness and have completed drug court processes, as well as some needing substance abuse or mental health treatment.
Members of the commission questioned whether expanded benefits would be up and running for the influx of patients as local law enforcement rounds up and screens people during Operation Rio Grande, which began Monday. The effort aims to clean up crime that has surrounded the Road Home shelter downtown.